Look for the light

Look for the light

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Mums often talk about being in “survival mode” in the first years of motherhood. Of battening down the hatches to get through the days and weeks with the constant onslaught of children’s lurgies, A&E trips, sleepless nights, moodiness, uncertainty about any given phase lasting very long.

You might miss your old life with a kind of nostalgia which at times feels like a physical ache, missing who you were, and the ability to just nip out to the shops/to the pub with your partner without military planning and dogged determination. Because as a society we perpetuate the myth of the perfect mum breezing through these days happily, it can feel like even more of a shock when the reality hits.

You know those days when you’ve been up all night – and not partying like in the good old days – you’re enveloped in a fog of dry shampoo, and if tested your bloodstream would be pure caffeine. The days where you’re so preoccupied with getting through the day you can’t lift yourself above a deep sigh of FFS and look forward (with slight dread) to bedtime.

It’s for these days that you need to cultivate the skill of seeing the chink of light through the keyhole in the darkness. Studies have shown that people who practise daily gratitude over a period of time show increased happiness, based on factors such as higher energy, optimism and determination.

And even better news, a habit of looking for the good and recognising what’s in your half-full cup results in lower levels of stress and depression. So if developing a gratitude practice can lead to enhanced wellbeing, how do we get started? A simple tool to get going is to keep a gratitude journal. Every night as you get into bed, set a few moments aside to list three things that you are grateful for that day.

Some days this comes pretty easily and you can think of lots of things to write down, while other days (especially if your toddler has just christened your new sofa in indelible pen), it can feel like hacking your way through a dark, dense jungle. Keep it simple: you can feel grateful for the roof over your head, the food on your plate or the lovely people in your life.

Of course not every day is perfect, but by practising gratitude regularly we develop skills which foster more optimism overall, which means that whatever life throws at us, we’ll be able to find something positive to be grateful for. And over time you’ll notice the magic: that you’re naturally looking for silver linings, however grim and foreboding the clouds are looking. And this positive outlook can really rub off on other areas of your life.

So starting with a gratitude journal, it’s possible to train our brains to develop a more positive attitude by reframing the way we think about our experiences. It’s simply a lovely way to start or end each day, and a great tool to share with the kids, helping them to develop a positive and resilient outlook on life.

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Working to live, not living to work

Working to live, not living to work

A beautiful blog post by a true warrior mama. Negotiating returning to your career, and pregnancy after baby loss 💕

Dear Orla......

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This week I caught up with (read: binge watched) The Replacement, and it reminded me of a blog post I started a few months ago and never got around to finishing or posting.  Returning to work after the death of your baby is so complicated and multifaceted and there is no right or wrong time or way to do it.  In fact, for some people it may not be right at all.  However, I know that many have asked me what helped me, so it seemed a good idea to share what I did and what I have learnt from these last few months.

I returned to work six months after Orla was born.  I could have stayed away for longer; in fact with the amount of annual leave I am now entitled to with the NHS, I could have stayed off for around 14 months (not all paid).  However…

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The Supermum Myth

The Supermum Myth


It always amazes me how one day of mothering can be so totally different to the next. One day you can be sailing on pleasant calm seas with the wind at your back, the next suddenly there’s a perfect storm of crap and you lose your rag at the slightest missing-sock-related mishap.I always find myself gazing at other mums, some friends, some who I only see at playgrounds and never have any contact with, and yearn for their life.
Their clothes are stylish, their nails appear mani-ed, their kids are feisty and normal (other people’s children usually specialise healthily in proving that we’re all in the same boat) but they deal with everything, tantrums, fussiness, stubbornness with sage aplomb. They pack well-prepared healthy snack boxes and extra emergency pairs of trackie bums in their Tiba & Marl changing bags, and their buggies appear well kept and without squeaky wheel idiosyncrasies or “FFS stupid effing buggy!” moments ever needed….There’s an awe, an envy, a jealousy, a level of “how does she DO that…?” going on behind my gaze as I wonder how and when I might ever reach that superior level of mum sorted-ness, and imagine their houses to be as Pinterest-worthy as I feel their life is, in that magic moment.

And then, I have a week like this week which offered me a new perspective on that Supermum assumption. Yesterday I feel like I had a pro-surfer mum day, riding a wave that just kept on giving and glided me back to shore without a wobble but with a smile on my face the whole time: entertained both my boys (summer holidays are upon us) without relying on back to back Peppa all day long. Made healthy pizza. From scratch, smuggling in loads of veggies into the sauce. Created games involving both boys together, and managed to deal with their brotherly scraps without raising my voice. Even incorporated Mr Tumble-worthy entertainment into doing some cleaning, put wash loads on, made the goddam bed and changed the bedclothes. I was truly On A Roll. I awarded myself several Mum badges of honour.
Then today happened. Ah, today, what did I ever do to you? Took the boys to the train station to catch a train that was cancelled and replaced by a bus service. Decided to change day plans, take a different bus route to a totally different destination, only to miss the bus by seconds and have to wait 23 minutes for the next, that 23 minutes being crucial in the “feed children to prevent meltdown” window coinciding with Small 1’s sudden urgent need for a wee with no tree around (despite multiple repeated suggestions for a wee stop before we left). Buggy decided to go into shopping trolley mode and lose the control of one of its wheels. Small 2 perfected his squeal/scream technique to ensure that the bus ride was a pleasure and a joy from start to finish. Lost my bank card somewhere at the museum, which I discovered when I was bribing Small 1 out of a bad mood by attempting to buy ice-cream…

Yes, today was a bugger. If I had seen myself the other day, Wonder Woman surfer mum day, I would possibly have thought, wow that lady has this mothering thing sorted doesn’t she, I could take a leaf out of her book. But today? Today i would’ve been rather smugly feeling like my life looked militarily precise and smooth compared to the mum I was pityingly observing.

We judge ourselves so harshly, possibly pre-babydom, but definitely throughout this mum thing. We are constantly spinning every plate in our lives, with finesse and grace whether it feels like it or not. Ok sometimes maybe not grace, but gusto, certainly. Take one look at your kids – do they look happy and healthy most of the time? If the answer is yes then you’re doing a great job. Small 2 made me take stock (and a few deep breaths today) after I had lost my card and was beginning to lose my sh*t along with it. He said “oh well mummy it’s ok look at the sky!”. His calmness and poise made me want to hug him to me and give him a huge squeeze.

It also made me realise the amount of tantrums I had buffered his volcanic eruptions and now it felt that he was doing the same to me – so I couldn’t help but feel proud that maybe, just maybe he was modelling my own behaviour when things were turbulent for him. And maybe my calm gets him out of those swirly rages in a way I had never quite empathised with before.

Today made me realise anew that we’re all fighting fires, some days are calm and (relatively) peaceful at the fire station so we can kick back and enjoy a cuppa until the next call out. And others it feels like flames are lapping perilously close constantly and nerves are as frayed as our old cut off jeans. But rather than envying a Supermum that I see in the playground I’ve made a pledge today to realise that we’re all bloomin Supermum, depending on the day, the angle, the prism viewed through. And it’s about time we stop flagellating ourselves and celebrate that fact.
it’s time to dust off your super cape, ditch the envy and judgement, and off we go…

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

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Many of us have been through a traumatic experience in life, be that a sudden bereavement, a difficult fertility journey or horrific birth story. It’s part and parcel of a life well lived, the darkness that allows us to see the stars shining all the brighter. We tend to plough through these challenging life experiences often without pausing to unpack how it’s affected the way we view ourselves or the world.

 

We can hold onto intense feelings such as anger and bitterness, like carrying a rucksack full of rocks, without actually realising it’s there weighing us down. These feelings can often be directed at those around us, holding onto small resentments like stockpiling shards of glass. Forgiveness is the art of letting these go, accepting that everyone is imperfect, and that we’re all muddling along trying to do our best. The freedom of imperfection. Often, the person we most need to forgive is ourselves. Once we’ve done that, only then can we extend this newfound benevolence to others around us.

 

There are many experiences which lend themselves to us holding onto unhelpful emotions. Take as an example the wonderful business of becoming a mum. If you’ve suffered from infertility, miscarriages or a difficult or unexpected birth experience, you may have been left with a latent sense of failure, that your body let you down. You walk around every day in your body, softly but continually berating it for being a failure, for being too pudgy, not strong enough, too stretchy, without allowing yourself any counterbalancing compassion, without noticing and celebrating that your heart is continuing to beat its big red love for you each day, every day.

What if you actually despise your shape since having children – maybe you’ve never quite loved it? Or you just feel helpless and like you don’t “know” your body any more? Noticing is the first step. And realising that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can turn around feelings of anger and resentment towards yourself, and soften them into appreciation. Forgive yourself your perceived failures, and honour the warrior strength that you’ve shown in bringing new small people into the world.

 

I’m biased as a Pilates teacher, but Pilates can really be a game changer postnatally: offering you strength, tension release and inner calm. But any physical activity will help: swimming, yoga, tae kwondo – any space you give yourself is time to breathe, to mindfully connect to your body and appreciate its strengths.

 

Physically strengthening and connecting to your breath consciously can soften your relationship with your body and begin to release your negative feelings about it. Relaxing your muscles, stretching out toxins brings more gentle thoughts to the surface. And doing something which tones your body and allows you to find flow will also make you feel good, get those endorphins and blood circulating and give you a rosy glow.

 

Notice and retune your internal dialogue, your automatic thoughts, and try to find ways of being kinder to yourself. Your body might not be perfect in your eyes. But no one has a perfect body. Accept yourself now, as you are, otherwise however much weight you lose you may find you’re never completely happy with yourself. You are allowed to love your body.

 

You may feel like you’re being modest or humbly self-deprecating by constantly berating yourself for your wobbly belly/thunder thighs/childbearing hips, but it’s actually weakening your spirit and allowing negative cloud to linger above your head. Why not try out being completely positive about your body and what it’s done for you every single day of your life? Overthink the good. Dwell on the wonderful. Create a positive habit of looking in the mirror, smiling and thinking, yes, love it.

 

Concentrate on visualising a safe place, where you feel calm, comforted and protected.

Observe what is happening in your mind throughout this activity, without judging or trying to change it.

Stop when you feel in your body that it has been enough, and lower your hands down.

 

Cross your arms over your chest, so that the tip of the middle finger from each hand is placed below the collarbone, and the other fingers and hands cover the area under the connection between the collarbone and the shoulder and the collarbone and breastbone. Hands and fingers must be as vertical as possible so that the fingers point towards the neck and not towards the arms.

 

You can interlock your thumbs to form the butterfly’s body and the extension of your other fingers outward will form the butterfly’s wings.

 

Your eyes can be closed, or partially closed, looking toward the tip of your nose. Next, you alternate the movement of your hands, like the flapping wings of a butterfly. Let your hands move freely.

You can breathe slowly and deeply (abdominal breathing), while you observe what is going through your mind and body such as thoughts, images, sounds, smells, feelings and physical sensations.

Imagine any images are playing like a film in the cinema.

This exercise aims to help you relax deeply and fully, and allow you to foster a sense of calm appreciation of your body and emotions.

 

Make a commitment to yourself that every day you will love and appreciate one thing about yourself. However tiny. Cultivating self-love and self-care will increase your self esteem, confidence and contentment, and benefit not just you but your relationships with those around you. As L’Oreal ads continually remind us: you are worth it.

 

 

Inspiring women on international women’s day 

Inspiring women on international women’s day 

Inspiring women ✨👏 post-solo bedtime relaxing (non Octonauts) bath win: I’ve had time to read a couple of magazines 🙌🏼 which makes me want to shout out to another strong awesome woman on #iwd2017 Emma Cannon ✨🙏I had the pleasure and privilege of working as an editor on Emma’s first two books Baby-Making Bible and You and Your Bump. Her eloquence and knowledge totally captivated me, and I was utterly sold on the Chinese medicine intelligence of balancing your body, calming your mind, tuning into your diet and unhelpful habits, talking positively and being kind to yourself. Even before babies were on my radar I was taken by the Chinese medicine tradition of the importance of honouring the postpartum period by nourishing and resting the body 🙌🏼✨ (plus I’ve been using her chicken bone broth recipe every week ever since for its magic powers 🎉👌🏼) I’ve lost count of how many copies of Baby Making Bible I have lent or given to friends, and I still refer to it when I feel out of kilter ✨❤️🙏💕.She’s got a new book out now, Fertile, which I can bet is similarly fab 💪🙌🏼💕. Emma, you are my inspiration 👏💪✨.

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#fertility #quietpower #womenempowerment #womensupportingwomen #perinatalhealth #fertile #fertilitydiet #babymakingbible #chinesemedicine #inspiringwomen #pregnancy #pregnancydiet

Step up

Step up


Small acts of empowerment ✨💪🙏happy international women’s day 🙌🏼 maybe one day we’ll be in a world where every day is everyone’s day and we won’t need a special day. 💜💕🌸🌱✨Small daily acts of empowerment and ordinary amazingness will get us there ✨🙌🏼💪. .

One small act would be to read @thestepupclub’s awesome book. .

This is a truly inspiring book. It’s not only about careers, it’s deeper than that. It explores self confidence and how we women are placed in the workplace, by ourselves, by societal habits and expectations. Highlighting how sometimes we’re our own biggest saboteurs as women. .

It offers really useful thought strategies taken from CBT to alter your natural female inclination to do yourself down. 🙏💪

If you’re a woman in any kind of work (or not), and feel your self confidence is thwarting you from getting what you want from life, from making your voice heard, from standing up for what you believe in – have a read ✨💪🦄. It delves into the psychology of self-esteem and the self-limiting behaviours that we women place on ourselves: it gives strategies for lifting yourself out of unnecessary self-limiting entrenched habits and beliefs, such as “I’m crap at networking”, and offers tools for generally dealing with every aspect of work/career/self-confidence that we have to face as women. It’s brilliant, clear, funny, intelligent. 🙏👏🙌🏼💕

Basically this book would have been career-altering had I been able to read it 10 years ago, but now as a self-employed “brand” it’s making me feel enthusiastic about things that otherwise I would’ve felt intimidated or anxious (and avoidant) about.

Plus it’s made me see the true life-changing power of lipstick 💄💄💄💋.

Happy international women’s day. We are women. We are strong and amazing 💪🙏💕❤️🙌🏼🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄.

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#womenempowerment #internationalwomensday #mumofboys #postnatalmentalhealth #postnatalhealth #mamatribe #mentalhealth #confidence #selfcare #selfesteem #womensupportingwomen